May 20, 2018
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Final count of salmon at Veazie best since 1992

By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

For the past several months, avid anglers and conservationists have been paying close attention to the Penobscot River, where adult Atlantic salmon returned in numbers not seen in years.

After early May’s freshet finally flowed into the ocean, the fish trap at the Veazie Dam was activated. Staffers from the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat began monitoring the trap, taking several hundred salmon to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery in Orland and moving others upriver.

Along the banks of the Penobscot (and via the Internet in living rooms and offices across the state) folks counted along as the trap total rose … and rose … and rose.

Today, I’m happy to be able to report the final tally. Oliver Cox of the DMR’s Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat checked in late last week with his final report of the year.

“This year’s run was remarkable for all the right reasons,” Cox reported. “On Oct. 31, when the trap was pulled, we had 2,115 salmon at Veazie. This year’s run was bigger than any year since 1992.”

In addition, Cox pointed out, this year’s run was double the 10-year average return.

As you likely know, federal agencies are currently working on a proposal to include the Gulf of Maine Atlantic salmon population under Endangered Species Act protection.

And while Cox didn’t comment on that process, he did allow himself to express a bit of well-deserved optimism after a banner year.

“As we debate the expansion of the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment let’s hope this year represents good things to come,” Cox wrote.

I don’t think any of us would disagree with that sentiment.

Speaking of salmon …

Here in the Penobscot Valley we’re lucky to live near a legendary U.S. salmon river.

And because of that, I’ll often dispense tidbits from the Atlantic salmon world that you might find interesting … even though the information originates hundreds of miles away.

That’s the case today, as I pass along word that the Atlantic Salmon Federation has presented its top award, the Lee Wulff Conservation Award, to Nathaniel Reed of Hobe Sound, Fla.

According to an ASF press release, the award recognizes Reed’s outstanding international work, especially in protecting wild salmon on their feeding grounds off West Greenland.

In the interest of full disclosure, I ought to tell you that the U.S. chairman of the ASF is BDN publisher Rick Warren.

Warren cited Reed for his years of service as a salmon conservationist, and said Reed was among the first to recognize that commercial fishing for wild Atlantic salmon was devastating the runs on North American Rivers.

“His interest and concern were very influential in getting increasingly strict controls on this fishery,” Warren said in the release. “Today ASF has an agreement with the Greenland fishermen that suspends their commercial fishery until 2013. Since joining the Board, Nat has been very involved in the effort to improve the science upon which ASF’s restoration efforts in Maine and throughout eastern Canada are based.”

Reed neither lives in Maine nor works here, but the work he and those who share his goals should be applauded by all who support Atlantic salmon conservation.

Fly symposium a hit

I took some time on Sunday to stop by the Penobscot Fly Fishers’ annual fly-tying symposium and organizer Ernie MacDonald said a constant stream of visitors had made the event an unqualified success.

The Penobscot Fly Fishers again took over the Brewer Auditorium for the event, and a couple dozen tiers were prepared to show their skills and chat with attendees.

During the post-lunch lull when I visited, the chatting seemed to be winning the duel, which is one of the reasons the symposium is always popular.

At the show, you don’t feel herded down aisle after aisle of exhibits. Instead, you’re invited to take your time at each table, and to find something that interests you.

I had a great time renewing old acquaintances and talking to some folks I’d never met.

Michael Decoteau of Belfast showed me the wares at his table, including the handsome photos that he has begun mounting to memorialize special trips afield.

His matted and framed pieces include several photos of a given journey, and sometimes include a special fly that paid dividends on the water.

The results are beautiful, and would look great on any wall or desk.

I got the chance to catch up with Dan Legere of the Maine Guide Fly Shop, and I heard his tale about the one that got get away.

That’s not all that uncommon at such gatherings, but in this case, the one that got away wasn’t a fish. It was a deer.

And since I haven’t seen a deer yet this season, all I could say was “I wish I could feel your pain.”

Finally, I spoke with Kevin McKay, a guide who runs the Web site.

McKay offered up an invitation that all of you are welcome to take him up on.

On Jan. 4, he and a bunch of Internet regulars will head to the Mousam River in Kennebunk for a day of fishing (and eating).

They call it their annual “Freeze Up,” and sometimes it lives up to its name.

Other times, it’s downright balmy. In fact, two years ago McKay and his pals spent the day in shirtsleeves, fishing on a 70-degree day in January.

For more information, go to his Web site and poke around. And for more news on the Penobscot Fly Fishers and their regular events, go to

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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